NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on March 17 that Ball will need to have a third surgical procedure on his injured knee. According to Charania, the 25-year-old Ball’s “career is in serious jeopardy,” and the upcoming surgery could “cost him most, if not all, of the upcoming season.”
Ball has not played in an NBA game since January of 2022, when he initially went down with the injury. While Charania also noted the surgical procedure could be “exactly what he needs to revive his career,” the doubt and murkiness surrounding the young point guard’s return could influence what a few Bulls superstars decide to do with their respective futures.
Bulls Have Missed Lonzo Ball’s Presence This Season
The Bulls were 22-13 when Ball was in the starting lineup in the 2021-2022 season, and they went 24-23 in his absence. He served as a smooth and effective distributor and facilitator, and he also cleaned up the boards well, particularly for a guard. Ball averaged 13.0 points, 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds in his 35 starts with Chicago (stats via Basketball Reference) and when he went down, the Bulls clearly lost a spark on offense.
So far, with just 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Bulls have gone a disappointing 33-37 on the year. They still have a shot at making the playoffs via the play-in tournament, but nothing is certain for Chicago.
Regardless as to how the rest of the 2022-23 season plays out, one top Bulls insider thinks that not having Ball around for yet another season might make some players lean toward playing elsewhere.
Could Ball’s Injury Make Vooch Think Twice About Re-Signing?
Insider Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic thinks several Bulls players might be re-thinking their futures in Chicago, but he makes a very compelling case for big man Nikola Vučević in particular.
“In light of Ball’s prognosis, the coach’s words spell out why the center would want to flee,” Mayberry wrote about Vučević on March 20.
“I’ve said this before with Vooch,” Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said, per Mayberry, “Vooch is always going to be an efficient player based on the people around him and how he gets the ball.”
With the team’s best passer and offensive creator likely sidelined for another year, Mayberry thinks Vooch in particular could be on the way out, particularly considering his current contract is up at season’s end.
“Vučević can stay in Chicago for a little more money perhaps and continue clawing for the Play-In Tournament. Or he can split, take a haircut on salary, maybe a step back in role and have far better odds of competing a championship in the next two seasons,” Mayberry noted, adding:
“With Chicago missing its best facilitator for the foreseeable future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vučević explore other opportunities. The better question for the Bulls is whether they still can salvage something from his contract with a sign-and-trade deal.”
Vučević is third on the team in scoring (17.7 points), and he leads the Bulls in rebounds (11.3) and blocks (0.8) and has started 70 games on the season. The 32-year-old center has expressed a desire to remain in the Windy City, but Mayberry makes some very good points. It will be interesting to see if Vooch wants to stick around with tons of question marks about Chicago’s roster lurking, or whether he decides to move to a contender.